Donut cake, Broken Monsters, and what you should pay attention to this weekend

Folks, it is officially fall in Chicago. I will pause here for your appreciative applause.


And now, I present you with the ultimate guide for the first fall weekend in the Windy City, where just 48 hours ago, it was something like 85 degrees. I don’t know; I just live here.

First up: make a donut cake that pairs perfectly with spiked, warm cider, hot coffee, or some other warm and likely alcoholic beverage. It’s baked in a bundt tin, which I am usually strongly opposed to, but in this case, I’m really okay with. It’s full of nutmeg and cinnamon and buttermilk, and you’ll probably have no interest in leftovers, but just in case you do, they’re amazing and even more donut-y than I thought was possible. Y. u. m.

Second: read a spooky book about a supernatural murder mystery. Wow, you say, that sounds so specific. However will I find a book that fulfills those criteria? Oh, honey. I got you. Click here to read the review of Broken Monsters, and then realize that it’s the perfect book for this weekend.

Donut Cake and Broken Monsters

Lastly: pay attention to at least two things this weekend. One is, appropriately, also donut (or, in this case, doughnut) content. My friend from my high school journalism days has started a doughnut bakery in Pittsburgh called Fight Sized Doughnuts. If you live in Pittsburgh, as I know some of you do, run, don’t walk, to his website and give him a follow on Instagram. Tasty things await you.

You should also pay attention to Samin Nosrat (aka my girl Samin, my goddess of cooking, my imaginary best friend who I chat with even though she’s not there in the kitchen) and her brand-new Netflix show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which is based on her most illustrious cookbook that has been reviewed right here on Page & Plate. I started the first episode last night, and honestly, I had to stop because it was just way too exciting and wonderful and I started crying when she made pesto with a nonna.

Smoked veggie tacos, Sharp Objects, and hype

When I was little, I had a paralyzing fear that if I got too excited for something, it would inevitably turn out to be the worst thing ever. I'm fairly certain that this was a result of some totally innocent and well-meaning advice my father gave me about how sometimes, the things we are least excited for turn out to be amazing. Clearly, I was a difficult child to advise. Sorry, Dad. It was great advice. I just ruined it.

The point I'm trying to get to here is that since then, I've kept that sneaking suspicion in the back of my head. If I'm really looking forward to something, I have an irrational fear that it might be disappointing. And if I'm really not looking forward to something, I have a feeling that the universe is going to pull a fast one on me and make it a genuinely great experience. I'm not superstitious, I'm a little-stitious. 

Okay, point made. So when I got home the other day dreading what I was going to try to pull out of my back pocket to make a great dinner, veggie tacos kind of sounded lame. And, if we're being completely honest, disgusto-gross. But, lucky me, my stitious-self was right, and my veggie tacos that I really wasn't looking forward to turned out to be just plain yummy. And gorgeous.

Smoked Veggie Tacos and Sharp Objects

Conversely, I was really pumped to read another Gillian Flynn novel. I flew through Gone Girl when it was a thing, and so the prospect of Sharp Objects was exciting for me. I was, in fact, looking forward to it so much that I decided to postpone my reading until I got through a few other less exciting-sounding books. Well, guess what? Joke's on me. I hated it. 

As always, check out the review, check out the recipe, and let me know what you think of both. If you think Sharp Objects was the best book you read this year, I want to hear about it because I love a good argument. If you think that the cilantro I reference might be parsley, you're totally right and there's no argument to be had. 

Roasted Salad, The Silkworm, and Embracing What You Love

Let's talk about embracing what you love with wide open arms instead of hiding it under the bed or in your junk drawer or in that awful cabinet where leftover containers and their lids go to part company forever. No? Just me? Okay. That's fine.

 I embraced this salad into my stomach almost as fast as I embraced that book itno my head.

I embraced this salad into my stomach almost as fast as I embraced that book itno my head.

I've been on a bend recently. It's not one that I was planning on sharing with you or anyone besides my Kindle, really, but honestly, I'm way too into this bend to be able to keep quiet any longer: I am so. totally. obsessed. with the Cormoran Strike mystery novels that J.K. Rowling wrote as Robert Galbraith. So obsessed that since I prepared this post, I've blown through the third and only remaining book of the series. I CAN'T HELP IT. So please go enjoy the post about book two of this series, The Silkworm, with the full knowledge that late last night, I finished the third book in the series and will never be able to walk alone in a city ever again. Cheers!

In other much more exciting news, it's still National Brain Tumor Awareness Month, and we are still going gray to celebrate survivors, remember those who have lost the battle, and raise awareness for research efforts. Here on Page & Plate, we're collaborating with TakeTHATTumor and celebrating #gograyinmay with healthy meals that fit any lifestyle. Today, that meal is roasted salad. I hear you over there, you people who don't believe that salad is a meal. IT IS. Or it is also a lovely side. Take your pick. no hard feelings. But just saying, I embrace salad as a meal ALL THE TIME. 

Mushroom and Swiss Chard Galette, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Packaging

First of all, longest post title ever. Whew. 

Second of all, let's talk about packaging! And no, I don't mean the typical explosion of bubble wrap or the lethally sharp plastic fasteners. I'm talking about the perfect pie crust. Or book cover. Don't you just love how my two topics of discussion meld so seamlessly together for discussion every single time? Me too. 

 So tasty, yet so sad. SO SAD.

So tasty, yet so sad. SO SAD.

I struggle with aesthetics, particularly in baked goods. Though I'm getting better with dishes I cook, baking is still a struggle. (For context, I will include a picture of my disastrous macarons from this weekend.) My inability to cope with these less than perfect desserts is also why Colin has put a moratorium on baked goods when I'm overtired. That is another story for another day.

This is just one of the reasons I love a good galette. All of its imperfections aren't even imperfections! They're part of what makes it rustic and quaint, all things that a galette must be to be more than a messy pie. Not to mention that they do a great job of hiding all of the ugly things inside of them (sorry, mushrooms).

I also struggle with judging things hastily, and I am definitely not improving in that department. But it always when something comes along and upturns all of your judgement on its head just to prove you wrong and remind you of your own shortcomings. This week, that something was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which I recently really enjoyed thanks to the recommendation of a fellow book lover over beers at Old Town Ale House. 

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Hoagies, Murder on the Orient Express, and Solutions

It's the day before Thanksgiving. If you aren't prepping for the meal of the year or looking for a way to entertain yourself over break, hit me up, because how have you done it, you freak. If you're a normal human, today is the day you start considering the end of the world brought on by gluey mashed potatoes, an under-cooked turkey, and running out of wine. You also realize that you need to eat something before tomorrow rolls around of risk taking your hanger out on your guests. Maybe you've just considered how long of a flight home you have, how many hours you're spending in the car, and how many days you have to fill. 

Either way, today, I have nothing but solutions for you. Except for the turkey thing, for which my best advice is Google like the wind. Godspeed.

 Easy, peasy.

Easy, peasy.

If your oven is already on (and let's face it, it is), grab a cast iron skillet and make some super fast hoagies to fill your stomach with something comforting in the midst of all this stomach-turning cooking anxiety. With a nice cheesy hoagie in your tum, the thought of preparing a feast will suddenly seem a little more reasonable. And with Murder on the Orient Express to read (or listen to!) while you're in transit or in hiding, you're all set. 

Pre-Thanksgiving = conquered. 

That Extra Little Indefinable Something

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A few months ago, I stumbled upon an NPR article about the Jewish Food Society, which was on a mission to preserve Jewish cultural recipes from around the world. The headline was "The Jewish Food Society Wants To Save The Recipes Of Grandmas Everywhere," and it spoke to me deeply. 

 Told ya. It's in there forever.

Told ya. It's in there forever.

My grandma was a gourmet cook, social worker, opera lover, and overall classy lady. Coming from a prolific Jewish family of Pittsburgh, she knew her way around matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, and honey cake, as well as she did chocolate mousse and strawberry vinegar gazpacho. The recipes I have from her are so perfect that there are no acceptable substitutes. Don't believe me? I carry a copy of her recipe for chocolate mousse in my wallet everywhere I go, just in case I end up somewhere I need to whip up a dessert worthy of the gods. You never know, ok? I was a Girl Scout for like a week. I'm prepared.

Even though we weren't raised in the Jewish faith, we still grew up exposed to the High Holiday celebrations, and nothing makes me think of Grandma and her cooking more than when Rosh Hashanah comes around and other, lesser honey cake recipes come out of the woodwork. None beats hers, but I'll never know if it's because of the recipe itself or the sentimental value. Sometimes it's that extra little indefinable something that makes the dish -- and I weirdly felt the same way about The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, which may be the first book I repeat this year. Repeat a book that's not Harry Potter? Yep, I went there. Find out why while you're baking your honey cake.